Eleven states have laws requiring that incarcerated people be counted at their home addresses for the purposes of drawing legislative district lines. Today, Pennsylvania’s Legislative Reapportionment Commission voted to do the same.
A recent Villanova University study found that more than 200,000 Pennsylvania residents are underrepresented because incarcerated people were not counted at their homes when districts were drawn previously. If incarcerated people had been counted at their homes, in the 2010 redistricting cycle, four Pennsylvania legislative districts would have been too small to qualify as a district under the population equality requirements – and four districts would be too big. Overall, the practice of “prison gerrymandering” has shifted political power to rural and suburban districts, which are primarily White, at the expense of urban, Black & Brown residents.
Statement of Khalif Ali, Executive Director of Common Cause Pennsylvania
Today’s 3-2 vote by the Legislative Reapportionment Commission to allocate incarcerated people to their home districts, rather than the districts where they are incarcerated, is an important step toward fully representative legislative districts in Pennsylvania.
This has been a long time coming. For too many years, the home communities of incarcerated folks have unnecessarily lost out on necessary resources and representation, while residents of districts where prisons are located have benefited. Today’s decision will fundamentally impact not just the shape of our district lines, but, more importantly, the ability of Pennsylvania voters to elect candidates who share their lived experience.
We want to express our appreciation for the incredible work of Minority Leader Joanna McClinton, without whose leadership today’s vote would not have been possible. We also want to thank Senator Jay Costa for supporting this decision.
We commend Chair Mark Nordenberg on his thoughtful and thorough analysis of the issue and to his ongoing commitment to transparency, fairness, and equity in the legislative redistricting process.
Common Cause Pennsylvania looks forward to working with the LRC to ensure that implementation of this critical reform is done in a transparent, equitable manner. We also urge the Legislature to follow this practice as it draws congressional districts.